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Victoria Azarenka

 

Another day, another top seed tumbles at Australian Open 2014.

First Serena and then Maria followed by Novak, and today it was 2012 and 2013 champion Victoria Azarenka who found herself on the wrong side of the scoreline when she faced off with fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska.

With Djokovic and Azarenka both falling in the quarterfinals, it’s the first time both Australian Open defending champions have lost in the quarterfinals in the Open era.

Azarenka's exit means we are guaranteed a first-time women's winner with Dominika Cibulkova, Li Na, Eugenie Bouchard and Agnieszka Radwanska the remaining candidates.

Out of that group only one, Li, has won a major – at Roland Garros in 2011. Li has made it to the final here twice – in 2011 and 2013 – but she has always come off second-best.

Radwanska is a former Wimbledon finalist, but for Bouchard and Cibulkova, making it to the final would be a career-best achievement.

Radwanska was the cause of the latest upset, a 6-1 5-7 6-0 besting of Azarenka. The crafty Pole was at her best, showing off her court craft and vast repertoire of shots, many of which won't appear in any conventional coaching manual you might have at home.

And that's what makes her a joy to watch. While her game is based on a defense more solid than most brick walls, Radwanska is capable of pulling off rallies that leave not just her opponent but spectators scratching their heads thinking "just how did she do that?" Take a look at the highlights if you get a chance.

Azarenka, who walked into her post-match press conference wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan "Deal with it", said she hasn't noticed any "weird vibe around the tournament".

“I don't know. I don't think about that. I think about today's match, what I did, what I could do better.

"But other players, you know, different vibe, whatever, I don't really care about that."

As for that choice of T-shirt? Merely a random coincidence, or so she claimed: “It's just a shirt I had. I wore it before.”

If 20th seed Cibulkova could print a slogan on her T-shirt after today's match, it would probably be "Still here". For the third match in a row, this time against 11th seed Simona Halep, the pint-sized Slovakian was considered the underdog.

"I walked on the court with the confident that I can do it again today," said Cibulkova.

"I was so focusing what I have to do, to do the right things. That was all what I wanted to do, and of course enjoy my tennis again."

Cibulkova's 6-3 6-0 victory was the quickest of today's quarterfinals. Next up for Domi is a semifinal with Radwanska.

In men’s quarterfinal action, top seed Rafael Nadal avoided the “curse of the favourites” and won his way through to his fourth Australian Open semifinal with a 3-6 7-6(3) 7-6(7) 6-2 victory over talented Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.

While Dimitrov, the 22nd seed and playing in his first quarterfinal at a Grand Slam may have lost, he won a lot of fans.

Dimitrov started the stronger of the pair – big forehands and bigger serves were the order of the day as he took it to Nadal early.

But Nadal isn’t world No.1 for nothing. The Spaniard dug in and worked his way back into the match, clinching a second-set tiebreak off the back of some loose play from Dimitrov.

When Nadal closed out the third set in similar circumstances, he had Dimitrov’s number. The Bulgarian wilted as Nadal powered home with all the momentum.

Nadal will play against his old foe Roger Federer in the semifinals.

Federer outclassed Andy Murray 6-3 6-4 6-7(6) 6-3 in a display the sixth seed will be happy with save for a blip in the third set. Serving for the match, Federer was denied by Murray, who saved two match points in the subsequent tiebreak, which he won.

It was the first set Federer has dropped in his five matches to date. Typically, the sixth seed composed himself and broke Murray late in the fourth set before duly serving it out.

With his back issues seemingly in the past, Federer has moved confidently through the tournament to this point. Against Murray he attacked masterfully, forced his way to the net whenever he could and defended brilliantly.

While some of the tournament’s favourites may already be on a plane home, there’s no doubt that the players who remain in the draw deserve to be here.

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Post-Tournament
Sunday, 21 December 2014
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